It’s time for another plant of the week and this time we are taking a look at the beautiful Alcea rosea, commonly known as hollyhock. This plant can be biennial and perennial and produces its hibiscus-like blooms from early summer to early autumn with seeds ripening from late summer to mid autumn. The blooms can be of a wide variety of colours ranging from red, orange, pink and yellow to purple, lavender and white.
Cultivation & Care
While A. rosea succeed in most soils, they particularly enjoy heavy soils that are rich in nutrients. They thrive in a sunny position, though it is advised to plant them in a sheltered spot as they can grow up to 2.4 metres and may be prone to snapping stems when exposed to strong winds.
Cut back after flowering or allow them to set seed if you are happy for the area around the mother plant to become a colony of hollyhocks. Be aware that they can be susceptible to fungal rusts which cause yellow spots to form on the tops of leaves and brown bumps underneath. This can be managed by removing infected leaves and disposing of them in your garden waste bin. I advise against adding them to your own compost heap as the heat from decomposition may not reach a high enough temperature to destroy the fungal spores.
All members of Malvaceae (Mallow Family) have edible leaves and flowers. The young leaves of hollyhocks can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, having a mild flavour with an unusual texture. Chopped finely, the leaves make an excellent addition to salads. The flowers and flower buds are also of great use to us. The flower petals can be used to make a refreshing tea. Follow the link in the caption above for a delicious hollyhock salad dressing recipe.
Not only are hollyhocks beautiful and useful to humans, they are also great for attracting wildlife to your garden. Many pollinators love the flowers, such as butterflies and bees, but let’s not forget that many birds eat insects so hollyhocks are also great for attracting birds which will eat the insects. The seeds produced in autumn will also provide nourishment for birds and if you live in the Americas you may have hummingbirds visiting these flowers to enjoy the nectar.